Make Your Diet Into a Flexible Tool

After all my years of pontificating about cutting back your meat intake and embracing part-time vegetarianism, after all of my posts about leafy green vegetables and how good they are for you, and after all of the other discussion of healthy eating here at Casual Kitchen, I have a terrible confession to make:

For the past few weeks, every single morning, I've been having a truly unhealthy breakfast: two eggs, sunnyside, and four or five good sized slabs of high-fat, high-protein, artery-obstructing, Portuguese sausage.

(The fact that this sausage is made in Hawaii--the one state where SPAM is considered a delicacy--tells you all you need to know about its fat content.)

I'll happily admit that this kind of food will kill you if you eat it to excess. But there are instances where this kind of diet actually serves your body's purposes. And in my particular case, I'm in recovery mode from being seriously ill. I need to rebuild muscle, increase my weight (yes, I know, a perfect problem to have...) and try to increase my strength and endurance.

So I've been starting off each day with a breakfast just like this, combined with a pretty aggressive exercise schedule. And since I've applied this diet, I've had deeper energy reserves, I've returned to my normal fighting weight and I've been able to do increasingly difficult workouts from week to week.

So, what, you ask, is my point? My point is that too often we think of our diets as fixed and rigid things. They shouldn't be. Instead, I want you to think of your diet as a flexible and powerful tool.

There are times in your life that you might need to bias your diet towards healthy, cleaner foods, and there are times when you might need to bias your diet towards more energy-dense foods. You change it up as your body requires it.

Let's say you have your annual physical, and your bloodwork tests show that your cholesterol levels are running a bit high. Well, then bias your diet to oatmeal, fresh fruits and veggies, and cut back on, uh, exactly the kind of food I've been eating lately. You might be surprised by the results. And, of course, results achieved this way are certainly preferable to the expense and potential long-term side effects of taking Pravachol or Lipitor.

Let's say your blood pressure is on the high side. You can choose to relentlessly remove salt from your diet and start up an exercise program. If you're on blood pressure meds, perhaps this can lessen--or even eliminate--your reliance on them.

If you're trying to improve your fitness and lose some weight, you can increase your intake of lean protein (chicken breasts, turkey breasts, lean beef, etc) and antioxidants (kale, swiss chard and other leafy greens). You'll replenish your body and fend off potential free radical damage.

Don't think of your diet as a rigid set of rules that can never be broken. Think of it as a license to experiment--with different foods, different components, different routines. You can tweak things here and there, or you can make aggressive wholesale changes. You'll find that your diet can help you achieve a wide range of goals, and it can be as powerful a tool as any pharmacological solution.

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Karen at the Cape said...

Glad to hear your strength has returned. Doesn't look like Redondo's offers mail order though...yet another reason to visit! That and the SPAM.

wirehead said...

I have a vaguely related goal. See, I've been doing a LOT of biking of late. 12 miles a day to and from work, plus a longer ride over the weekend.

As a result, I'm getting lighter, and I've got more muscle and less fat. And my cholesterol score, which isn't usually that great in my family, is great.

So I have to include bacon in my diet, simply to point out, when people tell me how much better I look, that I did it while eating bacon and that my cholesterol is good, too.

Anonymous said...


Nice post. Fats in a normal diet are not supposed to exceed 15% of the total calories. The fat calories should be equally distributed among the polyunsaturated, monostruated and unsaturated fatty acids. To balance the equation, the daily calorie intake should contain 70% of carbohydrates and 15% of protein. Eaten with commitment and discipline daily, a diets fat will save you the agony of having to get into weight loss programs.

Daniel said...

Hi Karen, thanks for your good wishes! There are always plenty of reasons to visit Hawaii.

Wirehead, great point. There's nothing like increasing your exercise to give you extra license to eat whatever you want.

And Will16, thanks cutting and pasting in some vaguely relevant content from your blog. I really appreciate it. :)


DEO said...

Dan, good luck with your recovery! You have some great ideas, and thanks for sharing them with the rest of us. Also, thanks so much for the comment you left on my blog, The Economical Epicurean. I've been admiring Casual Kitchen from afar for a long time, so I was thrilled to be mentioned in the same article in the Chicago Sun-Times! Especially loved your article on the spice monopoly awhile back -- I've since been buying most of my spices at Indian markets and the savings are remarkable!

Thanks again, and keep up the great work!


Jescel said...

i think the most important thing in a diet is make sure you hae a balanced one.. anything in excess is bad for our body. and of course, balanced diet + exercise is the best way to go! by the way, if you must know - philippines LOVE spam too! infact, we have a spam fastfood shop that sells spam cooked in every way imaginable.. lol!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Bravo, Daniel! I couldn't agree more. It easy to fall into the rigid patterns, yet you've shown - quite eloquently - which changing things up from time to time is of huge benefit.

I've had similar revelations myself. Most recently that, in fact, I needed to eat *more*, not less to lose weight. I wasn't consuming enough calories in a day and as a result my metabolism lagged. Good lesson to learn.

I applaud both your breakfast and your success in regaining your health ... even as I'm drooling over that breakfast!


Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you! I love portugese sausage (linguisa). It was definitely a staple for me growing up.

Daniel said...

Thank you for your comment! I'm so happy you found some useful value here at CK.

Now I want to visit the Philippines! :) Totally agreed on your point about moderation.

Thank you so much for your positive vibes! And you make an interesting point about caloric intake and energy levels. Perhaps I can come up with some thoughts on that subject in a post at some point.

I'm gonna add in some rice this morning!! Thanks for reading!

Thanks so much for your kind words! I'm really happy that I could give you a little nostalgia vibe. :) Thank you for reading!